The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Firefighter Training and Certification

Reference Number: MTAS-242
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: November 08, 2016
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T.C.A. §§ 4-24-101, et seq., established the commission on firefighting personnel standards and education under the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Comprising nine members appointed by the governor (the commissioner of education is a non-voting, ex officio member), the commission makes recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on municipal firefighting issues and:

  • certifies fire training instructors;
  • certifies training and education programs prescribed by the commission;
  • recommends and approves curricula for advanced courses and seminars in fire science, fire engineering, and training in institutions of higher learning or other state-supported schools;
  • establishes classifications based on training and education for full-time or volunteer firefighters who pass the certification examination given by the commission;
  • certifies individuals who are not currently firefighters but who complete an approved recruit training program;
  • and administers the supplemental income bonus provided for in the statute.

Various provisions of the statute elaborate on the commission’s powers in the above areas. Participation in the commission's firefighter certification is voluntary as T.C.A. § 4-24-108 states that nothing contained in this law shall be deemed to limit the powers, rights, duties and responsibilities of municipal or county governments.

Municipal firefighters who successfully complete 40 hours of in-service training (appropriate to their rank and the size and location of their fire departments) are eligible for an educational incentive of $600. T.C.A. § 4-24-202(c) requires that firefighters serving in the military receive their incentives if the military service prevented them from attending in-service training.

Under the Vanessa K. Free Act, T.C.A. § 55-8-194, drivers of emergency vehicles must receive two hours of training annually in the operation of the emergency vehicle and must pass a comprehensive examination.

T.C.A. § 4-24-112 established minimum training requirements for firefighters

  • Requires that any full-time, part-time, or volunteer firefighter hired or accepted as a firefighter on or after July 1, 2009 complete a 16-hour class for firefighters before responding to a fire
  • Requires that every firefighter complete a basic class and live burn class defined by the Tennessee Fire and Codes Enforcement Academy within 3 years of joining a fire department
  • Provides exceptions for firefighters who already had 5 years of experience as of July 1, 2009
  • Provides numerous exceptions by county

Even if a county is exempt from the training under the law, MTAS recommends that all firefighters take these classes regardless of exemption as this is the minimum standard for firefighter training for the state.

The Fire Department Recognition Act, T.C.A. § 68-102-301 (passed in 2003), requires newly appointed fire chiefs to complete, within one year of their appointment, a 16-hour course taught through the Tennessee Fire and Codes Enforcement Academy. This law applies only to the chief of the fire department, but the 16-hour class, called the Fire Chief Orientation class, is open to all fire department personnel if seats are available (newly appointed fire chiefs have priority).